Who’s in charge here?

The recent case of the 13-year-old state ward in Florida who was temporarily blocked from obtaining an abortion as well as a recent post in the guestbook brings up an issue for me that I find personally troubling-the autonomy of teenagers when it comes to choice.

Now I’m not a mother, unless you count my cats and occasionally my husband, but I’m of the age where I have friends who have teenagers. One of my friends has a 13-year-old daughter, so she took the Florida incident pretty seriously. “That’s ridiculous that someone would think a 13-year-old should have a baby,” she said.

“But what if she’d chosen to have the baby?” I asked.

“Now that would be stupid and I hope someone would talk sense into her,” my friend answered.

“But choice works both ways. If she was allowed to make the choice to abort, she should be allowed to make the choice to give birth.”

“But that’s STUPID!” my friend said. “A 13-year-old can’t-“

And she stopped, then smiled ruefully and shook her head.

She understands the dilemma.

Parents are responsible for their children, but when it comes to a pregnant teenager the line blurs to the point of invisibility. A parent who insists their child have an abortion is looked upon as cruel and blocking the teenager’s rights-but then so is a parent who insists that the teenager continue the pregnancy. With more teenagers than ever having sex, I have a feeling that we’ll see an increase in cases such as the Florida one. It doesn’t help that this generation has been given more autonomy than ever. Parents are less authority figures now that the Providers of the Treasury and Car Keys, and we are starting to see the effects of this. “I can’t tell her what to do” seems to be a common parental lament-that is, if the parents are not so caught up in their own dramas as to leave the kids on their own, another problem.

My friend’s answer to the problem is to give her daughter good sex ed and be open to conversations about sex. Lindsay’s of the age where boys are becoming intriguing, and my friend expresses worry because some of Lindsay’s friends are allowed to date on their own and this is considered cool. My friend and her husband are considered to be fairly strict parents by Lindsay’s friends, mostly because-horrors-she is held accountable for her actions. A couple of months ago she was deprived of that absolute teen necessity-a cell phone-because she didn’t check in when she was supposed to when she was out with her friends. Of course, Lindsay’s friends thought that this was the height of child abuse (my friend, much amused, reported that one of Lindsay’s friends actually offered to call CPS), but at the same time it reinforced a lesson my friend continuously teaches-that actions have consequences.

It’s a lesson a lot of people could stand to learn again.